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WHO: Threat of coronavirus pandemic 'has become very real'

The Director-General of the World Health Organization says decisions we all make can influence the trajectory of the coronavirus epidemic.

The World Health Organization stressed Monday that we are not at the mercy of the coronavirus, despite a growing threat that it could become a global pandemic.

"Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Monday briefing. "But, it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled."

There have been more than 113,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in at least 100 countries, according to John's Hopkins University

"The bottom line is we're not at the mercy of the virus. The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals can influence the trajectory of this epidemic," Dr. Tedros added. 

"We need to remember that with decisive early action we can slow down the virus and prevent infections. Among those who are infected, most will recover." 

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As of Monday, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have held off labeling the current outbreak as a pandemic.  According to the CDC, some of the past pandemics include the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic, the 1968 H3N2 Pandemic, the 1957-1958 H2N2 Pandemic and the 1918 H1N1 Pandemic. 

WHO officials said Monday that of about 80,000 people who have been sickened by COVID-19 in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Patients are typically released when they test negative twice for the virus within 24 hours, meaning they’re no longer carrying the virus, although some countries may be using a slightly different definition, that may include when people have no more respiratory symptoms or a clear CT scan.

The World Health Organization said it could take considerably longer for people to be “recovered,” depending on the severity of disease.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization's emergencies chief, said it can take up to six weeks for people to fully recover from COVID-19 infections, which could include pneumonia and other respiratory problems in serious cases. He said the numbers of reported patients have not always been systematically provided to World Health Organization although the U.N. health agency is asking every country with cases for further information.

The CDC describes a pandemic as "an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people."